How to Audition for Screen
Attending a Screen Audition - Step by Step
Are you an up-and-coming actor looking for guidance about what to expect, and what to do, at your first screen audition? Many emerging actors have attended lots of community theatre auditions, but auditioning for films, short-films, and TVCs (television commercials) can be a very different experience!
My first audition for screen was fairly nerve-wracking. I had been to acting classes, acted on stage, even acted in some short-films and television shows, and had recently nabbed myself an acting agent.
But I didn't know what to expect when it came to what was going to happen at my very first audition. The audition was for a long-running television series playing the part of one of the teenage leads if I remember correctly...I didn't get it, but I might have had a better chance if I'd been more prepared for what would happen at the audition!
So, whether you've just got yourself an agent or you've responded to an open call for a short-film, here's what to expect (and what to do) at an audition for a screen project!
Reading the Audition Information and Preparing
So you've got an audition? Brilliant news!
Your agent (or the casting director if you've booked the audition yourself) is going to send you some information about the audition. Make sure you've read the time, date, and location of the audition correctly and book it into your calendar! Allow yourself plenty of time to get there! You'll need to be there 10-15 minutes before your audition time to sign in and complete any paperwork.
You might have also been provided a character name, synopsis, and script. Read everything you've been sent and spend some time researching or thinking about the character/project.
If you're auditioning for a TVC (television commercial) there might not be a script or any dialogue for you, but read all the information they do send and be prepared to be open and improvise on the day.
If there is a script, learn your part and rehearse it. Think about your character choices and how you want to present the script. Remember that the casting director might ask you to change your offer or do something differently at the audition, so don't get stuck in what you've prepared, but it does help to make a strong, smart offer! If you're auditioning for an established television show, or a film with an established director, research and watch some of their work so that you are familiar with the tone and form of the show.
If you're stuck or very nervous about preparing the script, invest in a session with an audition coach. This is a person who can help you prepare for your audition. Do a quick google search of coaches in your area or ask your agent, if you have one, for a recommendation. I personally have a long-standing relationship with an acting coach who I return to before big or important auditions, and hugely value her input in my career!
Thinking about Wardrobe
Casting Directors don't want to work hard to 'imagine you in the role'. They want you to look and act the part from the get go. So dress the part.
The casting director might have given you wardrobe notes in your original audition brief - if so, look at it carefully and follow the instructions. If the brief says 'weekend casual' but your character is described as 'a real girly-girl, glam, fashionable, and gorgeous' - then you can think about how your character would dress in the weekend.
Common sense is key, but when in doubt here's some quick tips for what to wear to an audition; black is best; cameras hate busy patterns; and jewellery is probably unnecessary.
Don't be afraid to go all out. Some of the jobs I've booked have come from auditions where I fully committed to the part - e.g. a 1930s film where I borrowed appropriate costume and styled my waist length hair into a finger-wave bob for the audition; or the part of a game-show style show-girl when I auditioned in a sparkly gown.
That said, if you're going all out, make sure you've got it right! I once witnessed a waiting room full of leather clad men waiting to audition for a TVC where they were to play the part of a 'biker', when a young man clad in spandex and a cyclists helmet entered the room. (True story!)
PRO-TIP: Try to look like your headshots!
You've likely got the audition on the basis of your headshot. So where possible try to emulate the hair, make-up, and styling you have in your pictures!
At the Audition
When you arrive at the audition location, you might be a little confused about the process. There might be other actors waiting, the casting director might be running behind schedule, and they're asking about 'marks', 'slates', 'profiles', 'sides' and other things you don't understand. So, just to avoid any embarrassing mishaps, here's a breakdown of what to do when you get there!
- Find the correct waiting room. If the audition is at a casting office there might be multiple waiting rooms for multiple projects - there will be a sign or white board indicating which project is in which waiting room!
- Take a seat and a sheet! Once you're in the right place (usually the waiting room filled with actors who look just like you!) - look around. On a table there might be a stack of sheets and clipboards, and maybe a measuring tape. Grab one! You're expected to fill out your details, agents details, and measurements! (hence the measuring tape)
- Wait. Do not open the door to the room where auditions are happening! You'll interrupt someone else and piss off the casting directors before they've even met you. This could take some time - wait it out! Bring your phone, go over your script, text your boss to say you'll be late back from lunch...
- Get called in. Eventually the casting director, or an assistant, will come out and call your name. Greet them cheerfully and stand up. They'll show you into the room where you'll be auditioning, and take the sheet you just filled in! Now is a good time to...
- Turn off your phone. Don't embarrass yourself by letting it go off in the middle of a take. Turn it off and put it in your bag or pocket.
- Say hello. Once you're in the room, there might be more people waiting for you. Say hello, introduce yourself. Keep it simple and quick - a smile and hello is enough!
- Put your stuff down. Place your bag or anything you're carrying by the door (out of view of the camera) - It's OK to ask if there's a good place to put your stuff.
- Take your mark. A 'mark' is a spot on the floor - basically where they want you to stand for the camera. There might be a chair set up - if so, take a seat!
- Profiles/Slates. At most auditions the casting director will at least take a photo of you front on. They'll most likely also ask for 'profiles' and/or a 'slate'. This means they'll hand you a board or piece of paper with your name and agency name on it. Stand on your mark and hold it in front of your chest (like a mugshot) and face the camera. Now the casting director might ask you to 'slate' - or simply ask you to 'state your name and age and agency for the camera'. They might also ask you if you are available for the shoot dates, how tall you are, how you're doing etc. Answer cheerfully and clearly.
After this you might be asked for 'profiles'. At this point - someone might take the slate/paper with your name on it from you - if not, simply hold it at your side for your profiles (after all you're not actually taking mugshots). Simply turn to the side so the camera can see your 'profile' for a few seconds, then to the other side. Easy peasy!
- Audition/Sides! Now you'll be asked to audition or 'do your sides'! If you've prepared a script (your 'sides'), there will be a 'reader' to read the other lines opposite you. Look at the reader (not into the camera - unless specifically asked to!) and go through your scene. If there was no script, then the Casting Director will brief you on what to do now! If it's a TVC (commercial) without dialogue you might be asked to mime some action. Be open, confident and commit.
- Feedback and a Second Take. If you're lucky you'll be asked to do it again! There's not much point in doing exactly the same thing that they've already recorded, so be prepared to make a different offer. The director might give you feedback or specific instruction, but if they simply ask to 'go for another' - then try to vary your performance!
- Ending the audition. Most auditions don't take too long - two to four takes is all you'll get if you're lucky! The casting director will tell you when you're done, likely with just a 'thank you'! Thank them, and anyone else in the room, for their time, grab your things, and exit gracefully!
Congrats! You just got through your first screen audition! You're one step closer to giving one of these....